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Three Ways to Celebrate Tu BiShvat
January 13, 2014

This coming Thursday, January 16, 2014, is the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat. The day marks the new year for many agricultural calculations in Jewish law, especially for fruit trees. It is also the unofficial beginning of spring.

Tu BiShvat celebrates the wonders of nature - it is one of the oldest, continuously celebrated religious holidays that focuses on environmental issues. There are many Kabbalistic overtones to the holiday as well. Most of these focus on renewal and spiritual and emotional growth, as you’ll see reflected in the texts of the Tu BiShvat seders that are becoming increasingly popular.

Here are three ways to mark this special day:

1.) Enjoy some fruits that recall the Land of Israel - for example dates, olives, grapes or pomegranates. In Israel, people often send friends, family or children's teachers small baskets of dried fruits to enjoy on this day. (Want to do the same? Try sending one of these Tu Bishvat Gift Baskets.)

In Jerusalem, you know the holiday is approaching by the mind-boggling array of fruits that suddenly appear at Machane Yehuda, the city’s open air market. There’s always beautiful produce there, but the week before Tu BiShvat, the variety multiplies and dried fruit are offered everywhere. Take a stroll through it if you can and try a new fruit - Machane Yehuda is lots of fun right now.

2.) Plant a tree. This has become a tradition all over Israel and communities often organize tree-planting events. (If you sign up for an eTeacher Hebrew course below by Thursday, they'll plant a tree in Israel in your name!) Even Grover, from Sesame Street, gets in the Tu BiShvat tree planting spirit. It's a beautiful activity to do with children no matter where you are. There's something special about planting a tree that will live on for generations.

3.) Hold a Tu BiShvat Seder. For a fabulous, free, do-it-yourself guide to a Kabbalistic Tu BiShvat Seder, as well as many insightful resources about the holiday and the Jewish perspective on protecting the environment, visit It's become a highlight of the year for us. When else can you gather the whole family around the table, enjoy delicious, natural foods, a little wine or grape juice, and focus the discussion entirely on thought-provoking issues of ecology and self-growth?

This month in Jerusalem, also please take note of the art exhibit Longing for a Hug. This is one of the most important and moving Jerusalem events in a long time. The artwork tells the stories of children who have lost parents, brothers or sisters in war, military operations or terror attacks. Each piece by famous Israeli artists is based on a book - also called Longing for a Hug - in which 150 children shared their stories of loss and longing. Read more …

Spring is coming, so if you’re planning a trip to Jerusalem later this year, now is the time to book your hotel and discuss an itinerary with one of our tour guides.

Take advantage, too, of the sale on Introduction to Jerusalem: A Guide to the Holy City. Only $1.99! The sale ends as soon as the new edition is ready, so grab it now. You won’t miss anything, because if you buy the book between January 2014 and the day of the new edition is published, e-mail us and we’ll send you a copy of the new edition - free - just for being one of our e-zine subscribers.

Also, remember that we’re here to deliver your prayers to the Western Wall in Jerusalem for you. (Your prayers are strictly confidential and are deleted from our system as soon as they are delivered to the Wall.)

This is a free service that we consider a privilege to provide. Jewish tradition, however, teaches that prayer and charity, together, have the power to change Divine decrees. So please consider super-charging your prayer with a donation to our charity fund for disabled children in Jerusalem. Your donation, however small, will help provide much needed services, therapy and medications for severely disabled children in Jerusalem.

In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful holiday. Stock up on some fruits and nuts and spend a few moments this Wednesday night or Thursday appreciating the Land of Israel, celebrating nature, trees and their fruits, and reflecting on renewal. Happy TuBiShvat from Jerusalem!

PS - If your goals for this year include learning Hebrew, plant the seed and sign up for a class now!

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